Monday, February 7, 2011

Disappointment in the East

Mike and I gave Fury in the East another go. After the first aborted affair, we got our questions (mostly) answered, and gave the game a second shot. We fully expected our play to last at least a couple nights as reported play times had been in the 1 hour per turn range. 10 turns means likely three nights unless Moscow falls earlier.

The first night saw Mike with slightly less progress as our first game, but with slightly more kills. We got through three turns that first night (as opposed to two the first time we played) and things were feeling smoother. We still had a few niggling issues, but nothing major.

During the middle of turn five, we suddenly realized we'd completely forgotten about the Russian militia. (Did I mention they're completely missing from the rulebook?) It was impossible to backtrack at that point, and so we bagged it. It's likely Mike would have won, but it's impossible to say at that point, as the bad weather was just arriving.

Thoughts on gameplay, from the Russian perspective:

You have one job in the first three turns or so. Run. Make sure you know when you can leave negated EZOCs, and get out of dodge. Leave sacrificial lambs as speed bumps to slow the Germans down, and get as much out of there as you can. Particularly the leaders. It violates every instinct you have to do this, as you have this feeling you need to keep units around in force as much as you can to slow the Germans down, but you can't. You need those units much, much further East.

And herein lies the problem. You're very much at the whim of the random Leader draw during setup. In our second play, I didn't draw a single *-rated leader on the map. This meant every leader Mike was able to kill on the first turn (and it's a lot, there's no way around this) hurt. If you're lucky and get two or three *-rated leaders in that initial setup, you'll fare much better later on. The only way you can try to mitigate this is to plan your deployment with two things in mind: a ZOC net with weak troops to slow the German advance, and everything else placed with retreat in mind.

I haven't played enough to really give good advice on how to do this. Here, of course, lies the problem.

I likely won't play this game again until they can revise the rules. They're basically unusable as printed. Major rules are left out (+3 movement cost for overruns and any mention of Militia units come first to mind) and they're horribly organized.

And, really, it's a shame. This is a good little game destroyed by horribly written rules. I lower my quality expectations a tad when looking at magazine games, but this falls well below even these lowered standards. Hopefully, MMP sees fit to published revised rules. Errata won't do it – they need a new edition. There are enough niggling things slightly incorrect that it makes you question everything else you read, no matter how clearly written. It's just too frustrating.

After Mike and I stopped playing, we had a little discussion about the state of rules writing these days. Sadly, I feel it's declining. I can think of only three designers where I can count on a solid set of rules with a minimum of fuss: Dean Essig, Ed Beach, and Chad Jensen. Other designers may have occasional good or great sets of rules, but aren't consistent enough to hang with those three. Wargames these days have almost fallen to the level of software: never use the very first version of anything; wait for the update. And, the inevitable result of that is that publishers seem to be counting on that update to fix problems they've missed the first time around. It's a nasty spiral. But at least, most companies are savvy enough to understand that keeping those rules updated and electronically available is a good thing, and makes customers (eventually) happy.

Which is what I hope MMP does here, because I think you guys would enjoy this game after they fix the rules.

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